Report finds long-term care in the U.S. falling behind other countries

by | Jan 3, 2013

Without much fanfare, the Senate Special Committee on Aging released a report earlier this month on the subject of how the U.S. is progressing in caring for older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The committee compared health-care infrastructure with that of Japan, Australia, France and the United Kingdom – countries chosen because they have demographics and economies similar to ours.

The report found that these countries were all ahead of us on the Alzheimer’s care front. But as Judith Graham points out in a sharply observed piece today on the New Old Age blog, the study also unearthed statistics that suggest that long-term care for America’s elderly in general is lagging behind the rest of the world’s standards.

About 6.5% of Americans over 65 are receiving long-term care; the average for industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is 12.2%. Of those who do get such care, Americans are significantly more likely to be getting it in nursing homes, rather than at home. And America’s “informal caregivers” – read: spouses, kids and other relatives – are far more likely to spend 10 hours or more per week helping the elderly than their counterparts in other countries. Graham’s pithy conclusion: “Other countries with which the United States is closely aligned have embraced long-term care as an essential social responsibility, while we have not.”

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